Family members spoke to reporters outside a mass graveside funeral for members of a single family massacred a week earlier inside the home they shared near the Georgia coast.
Their grief was mixed with shock after police charged 22-year-old Guy Heinze Jr., on Friday with eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his father, uncle, aunt and four cousins. The eighth victim was a boyfriend of one of the cousins, and his funeral arrangements are pending.
"I know my brother didn't do this. My brother has a conscience," 16-year-old Tyler Heinze told reporters outside the cemetery.
"I can say there was drug involvement in the house and I think somebody ripped somebody off and somebody needed to get their money back," he said. "Maybe somebody in the house double-crossed someone. It could've been my brother who double-crossed somebody, and it could be part of his fault that somebody came in there and did this."
Police have refused to say how the victims died or what evidence they have against Mr. Heinze , who reported the gruesome scene to authorities Aug. 29 in a chilling 911 call, frantically telling a dispatcher, "My whole family's dead!" He said they appeared to have been beaten to death.
Mr. Heinze had been jailed soon after the slayings on charges of illegal possession of prescription drugs and marijuana, and lying to police and evidence tampering.
William Heinze said his jailed grandson worked construction jobs hanging drywall and wanted to be a truck driver like his father. He said the family called him "Little Guy," until he outgrew his father.
"He loved his dad. I know in that 911 call that we heard on the news, he was devastated to find his dad dead like that," he said. "I just can't believe it, unless they really had some proof."
Dozens gathered Saturday for the funeral at the Young's Island Community Church of God in McIntosh County, about 20 miles north of the mobile home park where the slayings occurred in neighboring Glynn County.
The copper-colored casket of the family patriarch, 44-year-old Rusty Toler Sr., sat beneath a green tent with the coffins of his two sons -- Russell Jr., 20, and Michael, 19 -- on either side. In front of them were two white caskets containing Mr. Toler's daughters, 22-year-old Chrissy and 15-year-old Michelle.
Beside the Toler men sat the caskets of Mr. Toler Sr.'s sister Brenda Gail Falagan, 49. Draped in an American flag, a nod to his prior Army service, was Guy Heinze Sr. He and Mr. Toler Sr. had been inseparable since childhood and referred to each other as brothers, though they were not blood relations, said Mr. Heinze Sr.'s father, William Heinze.
One victim, identified by police as Chrissy Toler's 3-year-old son, Byron Jimerson Jr., survived with critical injuries and remained hospitalized in Savannah.
Joseph L. West, Chrissy Toler's boyfriend and the eighth victim, had enlisted Mr. Heinze Jr. a few times to help work on his family's shrimp boat, said Otis West, the slain man's brother. He said he didn't know Mr. Heinze well, but he seemed like "a good guy."
"To tell the truth, if you had ever been around him, he didn't seem like anybody who would do something like this," Mr. West said Saturday. "But you never know."
Mr. Heinze Jr. was among 10 people living in the 980-square-foot home that Mr. Toler Sr., whom he considered an uncle, rented for $405 a month.
Gail Montgomery, who manages the New Hope Plantation mobile home park, said Mr. Toler had taken in Mr. Heinze Jr., his father and other relatives because they'd fallen on hard times and couldn't find work.
Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said two new pieces of information led authorities to charge Mr. Heinze late Friday. He would not say what that information was or how the victims died. He declined to say whether police believe Mr. Heinze acted alone.
Mr. Heinze's attorney, Ron Harrison, did not immediately return several phone calls Saturday, but he has said Mr. Heinze denied any part in the slayings.